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Preview: Canterbury v Wellington


Usually such matches are hailed as replays of the grand final from the season before, but while Canterbury have looked every bit the defending champions so far, the Lions in 2014 have looked to be a shadow of their most recent vintages.

Squad update: Scott Robertson has, as has been his preferred approach all season, continued to rotate his squad with four changes and five positional switches.

Codie Taylor will start at hooker while Joel Everson and Scott Barrett will form the second row for the champions.

The big changes are out wide, with Tom Taylor back in the starting team at first five-eighth resulting in Richie Mo’unga moving back to fullback while Patrick Osborne is back on the flanks. Rob Thompson and Adam Whitelock will start in the centres.

Wellington head coach Chris Boyd continues to makes changes as he seeks a winning combination, and the return of Ross Filipo and Matt Proctor from injury will increase the experience of this young Lions team.

Sheridan Rangihuna and Jackson Garden-Bachop will have the spotlight on them as the Lions field yet another combination at nine and ten.

Form: Canterbury were pushed by Otago last round, a welcome sight for other sides in the competition after the red and black machine had looked unstoppable in the early weeks.

Season form suggests this should be a formality for the home team, but Wellington is a dangerous beast for the champions, having won 85 of the 169 matches between the two sides.

But the Lions will need a major major turnaround if they are to storm AMI Stadium, with the side looking like they might gather their first victory of the year against Auckland before a total capitulation in the second half in round four.

With Manawatu, Northland and Waikato all too good for Wellington this year, the visitors will need to be switched on for Canterbury could threaten a riot.

Last match: Canterbury 29 – 13 Wellington , 26.10.13 in Wellington (ITMC F)

Last Wellington win: Wellington 25 – 19 Canterbury , 21.09.13 in Wellington (ITMC)

Biggest Canterbury score: 73 (73–7), 18.08.97 in Christchurch (NPC)

Biggest Wellington score: 48 (48–11), 15.09.90 in Wellington (NPC)

Biggest differential: Canterbury by 66 (73–7), 18.08.97 in Christchurch (NPC)

Key players: For Canterbury the key player is the overall system, with the side looking potent irrespective of who is selected, and if anything this team looks close to Robertson’s full strength selection.

However if there was a critical area for the side it is in the back row. Nasi Manu, Matt Todd and Luke Whitelock have been the best trio in the competition all season.

Wellington need the likes of Jason Woodward, Shaun Treeby, Motu Matu’u and captain Brad Shields to say “enough is enough” and guide this team to a much needed victory.

With Ambrose Curtis and Belgium Tuatagaloa providing firepower on the wings, expect the Lions to throw caution to the wind in Christchurch for this one.

The teams:

Canterbury: 15 Richie Mo’unga, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Adam Whitelock, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Nathaniel Apa, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Joel Everson, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Sione Faletau, 18 JJ Manning, 19 Tom Sanders, 20 Mitchell Drummond, 21 Brett Mather, 22 Luteru Laulala.

Wellington: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ambrose Curtis, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Belgium Tuatagaloa, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Sheridan Rangihuna, 8 Brad Shields (c), 7 Adam Hill, 6 Dean Brunsdon, 5 Christian Lloyd, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Taniela Koroi, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Tolu Fahamokioa.
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Eric Sione, 18 Ross Filipo, 19 Pau Halafihi, 20 Jared Kahu, 21 Tu Umaga-Marshall, 22 Tau Mamea.

Date: Friday, September 12
Kick-off: 20:05 (09:05 BST, 08:05 GMT)
Venue: AMI Stadium (Addington), Christchurch
Referee: Brendon Pickerill



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